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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

US health policy

US HHS Sect. Leavitt Starts a Blog

Well, here's a surprise. US Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has started a blog. Click here. He writes from the road -- Montana and South Africa, for two. And he takes comments -- moderated during working hours by DHHS staff. His 8/16/07 posting touches on the SCHIP controversy, but only indirectly. This is unprecented, no? Give the guy credit for putting himself out there like no federal bureaucrat has done before. And let's give him all the comments we can in support of full SCHIP reauthorization! And sorry Nancy Turnbull -- one more health blog! Read more »

Reinhardt Nails the Matter -- Are Docs Paid Too Much?

Last week we highlighted a provocative New York Times column asking the question: are physicians paid too much?" Click here for that posting. Today's Times includes a letter in response from Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt. Uwe, in his inimitable style, nails the appropriate response, which we print below in full: In “Sending Back the Doctor’s Bill” (Week in Review, July 29), you compare the incomes of American physicians with those earned by doctors in other countries and suggest that American doctors seem overpaid. A more relevant benchmark, however, would seem to be the... Read more »

Take THIS to the Beach: New Book on Medicare Prospective Payment

So, just maybe, we're warming up for a serious policy conversation in Massachusetts on controlling costs. True or not, I'd like to offer a reading suggestion for everyone who wants to participate. A 2006 book by Rick Mayes and Robert Berenson: Medicare Prospective Payment and the Shaping of U.S. Health Care (Johns Hopkins University Press). Take THAT to the beach! Read more »

Gruber Crafts National Version of MA Health Reform

MIT economist and Connector Board Member Jonathan Gruber has attempted to translate the MA health reform plan into a national health coverage model: Taking Massachusetts National -- Incremental Universalism for the United States. Click here for the overview of his plan. Gruber presented his ideas at a Brookings Institution forum on paths to universal coverage, which included three other sets of coverage expansion ideas. Click here for a link to the forum, held on July 17 at the National Press Club in DC. Read more »

Getting Ready for the Fall Fight on Kids' Health

Hard to believe -- looks like reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, set to expire on 9/30/07, is shaping up as the major domestic policy brawl in Washington DC this coming fall. Today's NYTimes editorial -- "Vetoing Children's Health" -- nails it well: The Senate would still leave millions of children uninsured and would discourage any additional states from covering low-income parents — reducing the likelihood that they would enroll their children. Senate Democrats believe this is the best that could be achieved. Now it will be up to the full Senate to approve... Read more »

Bipartisan US Senate Progress on SCHIP/Kids' Health

Looks like President Bush is going to have trouble holding Republicans together to sustain a children's health insurance veto. This is the latest from our friends at the New England Alliance for Children's Health: The Senate Finance Committee has marked-up and passed an SCHIP bill. The bill received strong support and will now head to the Senate floor. The mark was approved by a vote of 17-4. All of the Democrats and 6 Republicans (Grassley, Hatch, Snowe, Smith, Crapo, and Roberts) voted for passage. Lott, Kyl, Ensign, and Bunning were the 4 no votes. Read more »

NIH Seeks Appointments to Council of Public Reps

Massachusetts gets LOTS of NIH research funding -- so maybe somebody out there in blog land will take special interest in this announcement: The Director of the National Institutes of Health is seeking applicants to fill vacant appointments for the 2008 Council of Public Representatives (COPR) Roster. Applications are due Friday, September 14, 2007, and are available online at http://copr.nih.gov/application.asp. COPR is a federal advisory committee, made up of members of the public, who advise the NIH Director on issues related to: *Public input and participation in NIH activities *Public... Read more »

Bush Threatens SCHIP Veto -- Make Our Day

I have mixed feelings about today's report that President Bush is preparing a veto of the bipartisan plan to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) when it reaches his desk, most probably in September before the current program authorization expires 9/30/07. First, from today's NYTimes: Read more »

States and Pres Candidates Wrestle on Health Care

Two important articles in national papers today on health reform: one on state health reform, and the other on the presidential campaign health conversation: First, NYTimes -- click here -- covers the uncertain fate of Gov. Ed Rendell's ambitious health reform plan in Pennsylvania. Seems pretty close to "stick a fork in it, cuz it's all done" time: Read more »

BlogWatch: Charlie Baker Kicks the Tires on Medicare's 3% Administrative Costs

We're a little late, but Charlie Baker's 6/26/07 posting on "Medicare For All" is must-reading and worthy of discussion. Like many folks, we have heard for years how Medicare's 3% administrative expenses put the private health insurance industry to shame -- their's are in the neighborhood of 15%. This is considered a key item on the plus side for why a single, national health payer would be a good idea. The 3% number (Charlie says 4% -- we hear 3%) is coming up a lot recently because of Michael Moore's documentary, "Sicko." Charlie, not an unbiased observer by his own admission, suggests... Read more »


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